“States must re-understand why academic research is fundamental”

LGlobal academic research is losing efficiency, legitimacy, and accountability. The incentives that underlie mass publication have a negative impact on our societies and on the producers of the content: the researchers themselves. In a world where selfless understanding of our ecosystems is vital to meet the challenges of the climate emergency, it is time to empower researchers to work independently, effectively and relevantly in a healthy professional environment, while ensuring the transmission of knowledge to the public in an understandable and accessible way.

The health crisis has brought academic research to the fore, from understanding the virus responsible for Covid-19 to the development of various vaccines. This vaccine race has also been the scene of the perverse system on which academic research is currently built: the incentive for the rapid production and massive publication of scientific articles. No one will have missed certain retractions of articles, initially published in several prestigious scientific journals, such as the lancet. The Retraction Watch website summarizes in this page all the withdrawn scientific articles whose subject is related to Covid-19.

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Removing an article is not bad in itself, because no article intends to present “the truth”, but only elements that allow us to approach it. No scientific result is definitive. The plurality of responses provided allows us to contribute elements to refine the analysis, find possible errors or even propose new approaches, in order to obtain conclusions that are closer to “reality”. This is the heart of the scientific process that, by definition, wants to be iterative and precise, and therefore lengthy in the face of the prevailing thirst for immediacy.

Researchers evaluated by the volume of their work

Respecting this scientific process is fundamental to “properly” understanding our world and respecting its rich and diverse ecosystems. Unfortunately, academic research is based on a system that encourages flouting this process, but ensures that the common knowledge base is solidly built. Researchers in today’s world find themselves excluded and at the mercy of the three players in the knowledge market: research funding bodies (public or private), university libraries and research institutions (such as the CNRS in France).

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